In His Place
By Harry C. Griffith
Barbour Publishing, 2016
A modern-day challenge in the tradition of Charles Sheldon's classic In His Steps
Charles Sheldon’s WWJD? was a significant challenge in its time, but God calls us to do more than wait until we are facing a decision and then choose to do what we think Jesus would do. We are to incarnate Christ in our time, being conscious of the presence and power of God within us in all of our thoughts and actions. This is what pastor Steve Long wants his congregation to understand.
When Long challenges his prominent but self-satisfied congregation to become a living force for Christ in their small North Georgia town, he is blindsided by personal trials. Responding to Christ’s command “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Pastor Long tackles these difficult situations—and more—over a tumultuous week of trials and testing and ultimately learns (as he leads) what it means to walk In His Place.
After all these years, I can still feel the effects of Charles M. Sheldon’s life-changing book, In His Steps, so I was eager to read this book when I noticed the description, “A modern-day challenge for readers of In His Steps.” I don’t think there’s any way I can do justice to In His Place with my review, but I can definitely say that the potential is there for a similar type of impact on readers. A compelling and poignant work of fiction, In His Place is an outstanding book on many levels … for it has a storyline that hooks you from the first page, an idyllic setting, character depth, but most importantly, it’s a story that simply won’t let you stay the same.
In a picturesque North Georgia town, we are introduced to a congregation operating out of its comfort zone and a pastor pleased with his leadership – until one of the active members commits suicide. Pastor Steve Long seeks counsel from his friend and confidant, Philip, who just happens to be a non-Christian, and a faith journey of self-seeking and courage begins. Philip poses a question that Steve wrestles with: “How can someone be a member of our church – an active member – yet die of loneliness?”
In His Place is easy reading, but not necessarily comfortable reading – and it has an underlying message that’s impossible to ignore. The use of theological terms is often downplayed in today’s culture, and I think a wealth of understanding is lost as a result. Harry Griffith brings out the meaning of the incarnation beautifully – Christ’s presence on earth in human form – and that His presence did not end when He ascended into heaven. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:12).
Many of Pastor Steve’s church members were doctors, lawyers, and business executives of the area – and he began to question the church’s effectiveness in a way that speaks to us also . . .
Had it become nothing more than a shell? Had it ceased to be a place of healing? A place where people could come to connect with God? A place where they could worship and find community? More importantly, a place of changed lives, of people radically committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? A body of disciples?
Steve is a flawed character, often being more responsive to church members’ needs than those of his immediate family. The support and humble spirit of his wife, Jayne, is appealing, but I wish her character had more depth. Great characters overall, though. In challenging his congregation to incarnate Christ by being Jesus to the world around them, I applauded Steve as he made tough, unpopular decisions.
In His Place speaks to us in so many ways with the gospel message beautifully presented, the reminder that we can repeat our failures or redeem them, and that we either believe what Jesus taught or we don’t. There’s no middle ground.
The best Christian fiction causes us to reflect and examine ourselves, and In His Place does exactly that. It belongs right there along with other impactful stories, such as The War Room and In His Steps. Highly recommended.
Harry C. Griffith is an attorney by education, graduating from the University of Mississippi Law School as Editor-in-Chief of the Mississippi Law Journal and winner of the Phi Delta Phi Award as Outstanding Law Graduate. After serving in the Army JAG Corps, he became a corporate attorney and then executive, rising to the position of Vice President-Administration, before accepting God's call into fulltime Christian work as a lay person.
He has had more than 20 books published on a wide range of subjects: prayer, Bible study, evangelism, lay ministry and marriage. His publishers include Tyndale, Zondervan, Eerdmans, and A. R. Mowbray (England).
Harry has been called a Christian entrepreneur because of his varied and creative ministries over the years. He is a speaker, writer, teacher, poet, lawyer, business executive, husband, father, grandfather and founder of several Christian and business organizations. He has also held a wide range of positions in civic, service, business and political organizations.
Thank you to Barbour Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and also for providing a giveaway copy.
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